By Alexander Monaghan and Patrick Hoffman
These Stanley Cup Finals have been riveting from beginning to end, with several notable upsets and thrilling finishes. Perhaps the most surprising story, however, has been the Los Angeles Kings, who are on the verge of defeating the top two seeds in the Western Conference. Patrick and I debate over whether they are now the Cup favorite.
What team is even capable of stopping the Kings?
By Alexander Monaghan
When the Kings imminently hand the St. Louis Blues their walking papers, they will officially become unstoppable. In fact, this club might be the best team Los Angeles has ever assembled.
Not only has this up-and-coming bunch found a way to elevate their games, they found their true potential. Led by the homegrown core of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, GM Dean Lombardi found a way to supplement his system with game-breakers like Mike Richards, Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams. And after years of mediocre finishes and status quo results, this group is finding a way to play on all cylinders.
After acquiring Carter in late February, the Kings offense found a new life. No longer bogged down in a defense-first mentality, the team started to find new ways to score, and ways to win. Over two months later, the trend only continues as this team steamrolled the top seeded Vancouver Canucks and likely does the same to the hapless Blues.
Therefore, not only are the Kings the favorite to come out of the West, they are simply the team to beat. Their next opponent in either the Predators or Coyotes will likely become another fantastic playoff series, but does anyone actually believe either team can outscore the Kings? Or even make the unstoppable Quick mortal? Certainly a tough task to impose; especially after what appears to be a tough second round series.
And does the East pose a true challenge to this new Western Conference powerhouse? The Flyers, and to a lesser degree the Capitals, both boast similar depth in their forward corps but neither team is currently winning their series. Moreover, taking on the New York Rangers would just be another top seed for the Kings to slay en route to the Cup.
Last season, the Boston Bruins found a way to get a full effort from their entire team. More importantly, they found a way to get hot at the right time and stay consistent. Over the last eight games, the Kings have defined consistency, and by that same token, domination.
And over those eight dominant games, the NHL's royalty boasted a 24-13 goal differential as they simply haven't let either opponent into the series. Furthermore, they haven't shown any signs of letting up, making them the clear-cut Cup favorite.
L.A. is not the Cup favorite
By Patrick Hoffman
When it comes to Stanley Cup Playoff hockey, it is always fun to root for the underdog.
This postseason, the Los Angeles Kings certainly fall under their category. They are currently up 3-0 in their second round series against the St. Louis Blues and it is easy to see why. The team is getting consistent scoring, producing on special teams and getting great netminding from goaltender Jonathan Quick.
With that said, the Kings should not be considered to be the Cup favorite. Yes, they are playing terrific hockey and yes, they certainly have the right pieces in place but that does not mean they can win hockey's Holy Grail this season.
For starters, they would have serious trouble playing against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were not only a high-scoring team in the regular season, but they have also been putting the puck in the net in bunches in the postseason.
While the Kings have been able to put the puck in the net on a somewhat consistent basis this postseason, they do not do it as regularly as the Flyers. No matter how good Quick is, playing against a Flyers' offense in a seven game series would be extremely tough for the Kings.
Lastly, it is not very often that en eight seed defeats the top two seeds in its Conference and then wins the Cup. This is not to say that the the Kings could not do it but the odds do not appear to be in their favor.
Again, there is no doubting that the Kings are a very good hockey club and are playing terrific hockey at the right time. With that said, the Cup will not be theirs when all is said and done to close the 2011-12 NHL campaign.
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